Meaningful Literacy for Early Readers

words have meaning

“The first thing kids should learn about words is that they have meaning.”

That’s what I wrote in a guest post for The Imagination Tree recently.  And it’s true!  While there is plenty of practice that does — and needs to — go on with pieces and parts of words, rearranging letters, and practicing sounds and sight words,  we must remember that with all of that, kids need a strong foundation in using words to receive and send meaning.

We’re really quite fixated on the importance of literacy in education, but if reading isn’t connected to meaning, all we’re teaching kids to do is string a bunch of sounds together.  That’s not literacy.

In this old article  from a 2005 issue NAEYC’s Young Child magazine, Susan Neuman and Kathleen Roskos, leading researchers in the field of early literacy, wrote about the importance of infusing meaning into the literacy experiences of early readers.

In reference to the joint position statement created by NAEYC and the International Reading Association outlining developmentally appropriate practice in literacy instruction, the authors wrote:

“The research-based statement stresses that for children to become skilled readers, they need to develop a rich language and conceptual knowledge base, a broad and deep vocabulary, and verbal reasoning abilities to understand messages conveyed through print.  At the same time, it recognizes that children also must develop code-related skills” (phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, etc.). 

“But to attain a high level of skill, young children need many opportunities to develop these strands interactively, not in isolation.  Meaning, not sounds or letters, drives children’s earliest experiences with print. Therefore, the position statement points out that although specific skills like alphabet knowledge are important to literacy development, children must acquire these skills in coordination and interaction with meaningful experiences (Neuman, Bredekamp, & Copple 2000).”

How do you create a culture of literacy that is rich in meaning? Here are a few key ideas. Continue reading



Filed under Building Readers, Uncategorized

Thank You, Mr. Blanchard.

teacher-facebookIt’s Teacher Appreciation Day!  In the middle of putting together notes and treats for my kids’ teachers, I’ve also been invited by friend, Allison of No Time for Flash Cards to write a thank you note to one of my own teachers.  What a treat to thank one of the many amazing teachers in my life!

Continue reading



Filed under Quick Thought / Hot Topic, Uncategorized

Noticing the Seeds: A Mantra for Parents Who Feel They Haven’t Accomplished Anything Today

I have a history of accomplishing.

I graduated high school with a 4.0 and a full-ride scholarship.  I had been an athlete, class president, and valedictorian.  In college, I completed a dual major in four years and was set with an acceptance to graduate school and a teaching assistantship before closing my final term as an undergrad.

I’m not listing these things to brag.  As I run through this resume, what I recognize is how much satisfaction I get from setting my sights on something, checking the to-do boxes, and accomplishing goals.  For years, I rode on a wave of short-term accomplishments; enjoying the rush of goals set and completed within semesters, years, or seasons.

I was an accomplishment junkie.

Accomplished Continue reading



Filed under Quick Thought / Hot Topic

Big Kids on the Playground

I typically write about the early childhood realm.  That’s where my professional expertise is.  But as my own kids grow, I’m beginning to make some interesting observations about the span of childhood.

While my youngest two boys are still in the early childhood years, my oldest two are solidly in the school age years.  (My oldest, in fact, seems intent on flirting with becoming a “tween”, which is puzzling to me, since I recall birthing him just yesterday.)

I’m starting to notice some of the perspectives and attitudes about “big kids” from a new vantage point. Just yesterday, my husband and I were talking about observations we’ve made as we’ve watched interactions in public playspaces.  Not always, but sometimes, there seems to be almost an air of irritation when the big kids show up.

kids at play Continue reading



Filed under Child Development & DAP, Uncategorized

Weekend Reads 3.20.15

budsWelcome Spring!


(Some of the most popular posts from my Facebook feed this week!)

Try Kindness First {Steady Mom}

“Think back to a time when you were feeling your most fragile and vulnerable–has harshness ever helped you smooth over inner rough places?”

The Vital Importance of a Strong Foundation {Not Just Cute}

One from my own archives: It’s not “just” play, and it’s not “just” art, and it’s not “just” story time. This is the Continue reading


Leave a Comment

Filed under Weekend Reads

March Madness and What Time Outs Should REALLY Look Like

Ah, March Madness!  It’s a fun extended family tradition in our house, connecting siblings and cousins across generations and across the US as we share our best guesses (and a lot of random selections) in our personal brackets.  All for bragging rights, and maybe some free ice cream.

We got our boys in on the action this year, with our ten year-old checking out the ranking system (coupled with some of his personal team loyalties), our eight year-old comparing team colors, our five year-old showing we may need to brush up on our Geographic awareness as he selected “Virgeorgia” as one of his teams, and our two year-old showing a clear penchant for the underdog, selecting a #10 team to take it all home.  (I guess that’s what happens when you fill out the bracket with a series of “this or that” questions.)

Filling out the brackets as a family made for some questionable life lessons, such as my husband’s comment that, “You don’t have to make a good choice, you just have to make a choice.”  But one of the lessons March Madness always brings to my mind is the importance of a good coach and what time outs should really look like.

Trust me.  It really does have something to do with child development.  (Incidentally, this basketball analogy may be the post most frequently referred from wives to husbands.  Go figure.) Continue reading


Leave a Comment

Filed under Positive Guidance and Social Skills, Uncategorized

The Boy Who Spoke to The Earth — Dreamling Books

There is something about a good picture book that really gets me really excited.  It makes me want to tell everyone about it immediately.   (OK, honestly it makes me want to purchase it immediately, then it makes me want to tell everyone about it.) That’s what happened when I laid eyes on the first book presented by Dreamling Books, The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth.

Maybe it was the gorgeous pictures — amazing illustrations by Disney Interactive artist David McClellan, mimicking the stunning photography style of the author, adventure photographer Chris Burkard.

Maybe it was the message: to slow down, enjoy the journey, and breathe in the beauty all around you.

Whichever it was that hit first, it was the combination that reminded me of so many moments when I’ve suddenly realized that the grandeur of nature has enveloped me.  You know, that moment where something stirs inside of you? Continue reading



Filed under Building Readers, Get Outside, Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized

Weekend Reads 3.6.15

Typewriter(I’m still giddy about this vintage typewriter I scored at Goodwill last week!)


(Some of the most popular posts from my Facebook feed this week!)

Elementary School Dumps Homework and Tells Kids to Play Instead {DNAinfo}

‘In response to DNAinfo’s inquiries, Hsu released a statement defending the new homework policy — insisting that the playtime, conversations with relatives and unstructured reading was key to education.

“We are excited that we are redefining the landscape of homework — but we are certainly not eliminating homework,” Hsu said.

“We are creating opportunities for students and their families to engage in activities that research has proven to benefit academic and social-emotional success in the elementary grades. We look forward to seeing the positive impact our newly-designed homework options will have on our students and their families.”’

Responses that Work with Children {Carrots are Orange} Continue reading


Leave a Comment

Filed under Weekend Reads